I know you thought this would be about President Trump. It’s not. It’s about me. I was once threatened with a charge of obstruction of justice. My lawyer later explained that law enforcement has wide latitude in applying this charge and that they probably would have prevailed in bringing the criminal charge against me had the officer brought he charge properly. Here’s how it happened:
One quiet Sunday afternoon I was doing some gardening in front of my rural weekend house at the Jersey shore. A New Jersey State police officer pulled up and said that he was investigating a report of petty vandalism involving a child or children in the neighborhood. I told him I was familiar with the story, having heard gossip from other neighbors.
I said that I had already spoken to the county protective services department and that the investigator had asked me to keep that information we discussed confidential. I understood that there was an open investigation of child abuse and that a child could be in danger. I had no direct information but what little I observed from my neighbors, this seemed like a credible concern for the child’s safety. It seemed legally proper and common sense to not spread this information that might put a child at risk of further abuse.
The state police officer demanded that I give him the names and addresses of the children involved in the story. I refused, saying that I felt this was an improper request under the circumstances. The office threatened to charge me with obstruction of justice. The conversation escalated to shouting. I yelled “I’m out of here” and turned away and walked back into my house. The officer followed, handcuffed me and brought me to the state police station.
I later learned that this type of detention is different from an arrest. Apparently he did not arrest me. But it felt like the same.
In the end, the police officer did not charge me with obstruction of justice. That’s a good thing. My wife came and picked me up at the police station. My lawyer says that if the officer had issued the obstruction of justice charge then I probably would have been found guilty. My defense of acting prudently to protect a child would not have been enough to overcome my legal duty to not impede a law enforcement investigation.
I learned something about obstruction of justice that most people don’t know. Obstruction of justice is supposed to be an easy charge for law officers to win. Unless, of course, you are Donald Trump and you have a group of Republican lawmakers willing to turn a blind eye on the crime. He’s not above the law any more than I would have been had the prosecutor brought the charge.
Ok, I admit, this post really is about Donald Trump.